The Dark Side Beckons

With the advent of COVID, my wife and I decided to return to a world we had sworn off — MMORPGs. Those of you who know us know that we literally met while playing EverQuest, and we had, at various times in our lives, been pulled deep into that world, e.g. being officers (and in my wife’s case, leader) of raiding guilds — a more-than-fulltime job.

Our last flirtation with MMOs had been on the PS4 with Elder Scrolls Online — think Skyrim but much bigger and full of other players running around, riding impossible-looking mounts, asking for help with world bosses, and randomly casting spells to show off.

Using one PS4 per player is a pain, worse if your kids are involved. So we decided we’d try something that (a) ran on a Mac (we have enough Macs for everyone), (b) would be free to play, and (c) wasn’t WoW.

Now, I omitted our more recent flirtation with GuildWars 2, which meets all these criteria but just feels completely flavorless. (In GW2 you can sign up for and complete a quest without actually ever meeting the person you’re supposed to be doing it for — they’ve streamlined the story out of the game).

Anyway, the game we had been pining for these past years was ESO. We’d stopped playing because of a lack of time and the PS4 inconvenience, and it runs on Macs.

Our big problem came when we tried to install it on my daughter’s 2012 Mac Pro. Turns out the installed version of macOS is so out-of-date (3y or so?) that it requires multiple sequential OS updates to run it, complicated by needing firmware flashes that come with the OS updates and there’s no one-step “clean install”. Anyway, when I tried to do these it just stalled and wouldn’t go past the second version. Sheesh. (And, by the way, the Mac Pro works just fine for everything else.

Also, my wife’s Macbook really struggled with it.

Enter the Acer Predator Helios 300

So, I searched for a well-reviewed gaming laptop and got two Acer Helios 300s, not maxed out but close. Each for roughly the price of a Macbook Air, or what I would normally pay for a headless gaming desktop back in the day (i.e. ~$1200). These suckers run ESO with near maxed out-graphics settings at ~90fps (dropping to 40-50fps in massive fights, and 30fps or slower when on battery power).

Are these well-made laptops? No, they are not. The way the power brick connects literally makes me cringe. The USB and headphone ports are in super annoying locations because they need the obvious spots for fan vents.

Do they run hot? OMG yes, yes they do. Our cats like to bask in their exhaust.

Are they quiet? No, no they are not.

Do they have good speakers? In a word, hell no.

Do the trackpads work well? No. They. Do. Not.

Does Windows 10 make me livid? Yes, yes it does.

My daughters, who openly envy us our hotrod gaming laptops (and use them as much and as often as they can), have commented on how badly put together they are in every respect except for the important criterion of kicking ass.

To be continued…